Zenit St. Petersburg is one of the biggest soccer clubs in Russia and a regular in major European competitions like the Champions League and Europa League. Zenit is owned by Gazprom, which is the largest extractor of natural gas in the world and, accordingly, can spend any amount of money it wants on the world’s best players. Just before this season, Zenit lured Belgian star Axel Witsel and Brazilian journeyman Hulk to St. Petersburg in a £64 million shopping spree, but it turns out the locals in St. Petersburg aren’t too happy about the infusion of top international talent.
The team’s biggest fan club, Landscrona, has written and issued a manifesto to the public called “Selection 12.” In it, the members of Landscrona plead for their team to only buy players from the St. Petersburg area and “other brotherly Slav nations,” and to keep out “dark-skinned players” and “sexual minorities.” Here are a few excerpts from the full manifesto, as translated by Google:
We are not racists, and for us, the lack of black players in the “Zenit” is only important tradition, which emphasizes the identity of the club and nothing more…..
We have absolutely nothing against the people of these and any other continents, but want to “Zenit” were primarily close in spirit and mentality of the players. Now the “Zenit” black players imposed [upon us] almost by force.
Zenit is the only Russian Premier League club that has not signed an African player in the past, according to ESPN FC, but there are a number of players from Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, and Belgium on the team.
Elsewhere in the manifesto, Lanscrona members seem to acknowledge the fact that, with the millions coming from Gazprom, Zenit is in a position to become a modern super club. Selection 12 is a set of guidelines on how to handle such a lavish future, but Landscrona lashes out against the idea of “taking the path” of Manchester City or Arsenal — two English clubs with only a few English players in the starting 11. Not surprisingly, both Manchester City and Arsenal have star African players.
This isn’t the first troubling incident to come from Zenit’s radical fans. Earlier this season, a fake bomb was discovered at the team’s training complex with the note “Hulk out,” referring to the new (and very unpopular) Brazilian player. Perhaps even more troubling? New Zenit Stadium, home of the team in St. Petersburg, is set to be a host venue during the 2018 World Cup, which will take place throughout Russia.